Penn State College of Arts and Architecture
Center for the Performing Arts at Penn State
Four young musicians sit in a row with their instruments.


The Catalyst Quartet, comprised of leading laureates and alumni of the Sphinx Competition, makes its Penn State premiere. A New York Times critic describes the quartet’s Carnegie Hall debut as “invariably energetic and finely burnished.” Sponsored by Detroit’s Sphinx Organization, which is dedicated to providing opportunities in classical music for African American and Hispanic musicians, the quartet includes violinists Karla Donehew-Perez and Jessie Montgomery, violist Paul Laraia, and cellist Karlos Rodriguez. Montgomery is on a leave of absence from the ensemble in fall 2015. Sybarite5’s Sami Merdinian will perform in her place. The quartet’s debut recording, Bach/Gould Project, includes music by Johann Sebastian Bach and Glenn Gould. The quartet is also featured on the album Strum, a collection of string works composed by quartet member Montgomery. In addition to performing as a quartet across the United States and abroad, the musicians are also principal players with the Sphinx Virtuosi chamber orchestra.

Artist website: Catalyst Quartet

1Project Events

Black Student Empowerment

7 p.m. Monday, September 14, 2015
Eisenhower Auditorium Conference Room
Not open to the public

In partnership with the Penn State Multicultural Resource Center, Catalyst Quartet and Sphinx Organization founder Aaron Dworkin have a discussion with Penn State Black male and Black female empowerment groups. Topics for the discussion include the power of diversity, removing barriers that stand in the way of goals, and working together to achieve a common purpose.

Arts Marketing Class Visit

9:45 a.m. Tuesday, September 15, 2015
116 Borland Building

The public is invited to listen as Aaron Dworkin—founder of the Sphinx Organization and dean of The University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre, and Dance—speaks to students in an A&A 322 course that introduces arts markets and consumption models for emerging arts entrepreneurs. The course explores issues in marketing aesthetic products and creating/communicating artistic value. Assistant Professor Jonathan Gangi leads the 75-minute discussion.

Penn State Forum

11:30 a.m. Tuesday, September 15, 2015
The Nittany Lion Inn

Aaron Dworkin—founder of the Sphinx Organization and dean of The University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre, and Dance—speaks and takes questions from the audience in a 90-minute event modeled on the National Press Club Speaker Series. In addition, Catalyst Quartet, a Sphinx ensemble, performs selected music. Tickets are required. Go to Penn State Forum for more information.

Forum on Black Affairs Reception

5 p.m. Tuesday, September 15, 2015
The Nittany Lion Inn
Not open to the public

Early in each fall semester, the Penn State Forum on Black Affairs hosts a reception for new faculty and staff members of color. Sphinx Organization founder Aaron Dworkin and Catalyst Quartet give a short performance and talk during this year’s reception.

Open Discussion with Africana Research Center

Noon Wednesday, September 16, 2015
Eisenhower Auditorium Conference Room

In partnership with Penn State’s Africana Research Center and Department of African American Studies, members of Catalyst Quartet give a talk about the power of diversity and thriving in classical music, an environment that doesn’t necessarily value diversity. The musicians will also answer audience questions. Attendees are encouraged to bring their own food to the one-hour event, part of the Africana Research Center’s lunchtime brown-bag series.

On the Use and Abuse of Folk Music. For Classical Music. For Life: A Conversation with Catalyst Quartet and Penn State Faculty

3 p.m. Wednesday, September 16, 2015
Penn State Altoona
Misciagna Family Center Titelman Study

The public is invited to listen to a forum featuring the musicians of Catalyst Quartet.

An Evening with Catalyst Quartet

7:30 p.m. Wednesday, September 16, 2015
Penn State Altoona
Edith Davis Eve Chapel

Catalyst Quartet performs a no-cost concert including its transcription of Goldberg Variations by Johann Sebastian Bach, Tenebrae by Osvaldo Golijov, Allaqi by Marcus Goddard, and quartet members’ arrangements of popular American folk songs from the 1960s and 1970s.

Free tickets, required for the evening concert, are available at the Misciagna Box Office, Monday through Thursday 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., or at the door. Free parking is available after 3 p.m. in the Misciagna lot. For more information, phone the box office at 814-949-5452.

Opening Bach to the World: A Lunchtime Discussion with Catalyst Quartet

Noon Thursday, September 17, 2015
110 Music Building I

How do musicians promote cultural inclusion through a body of work that stems mostly from a European tradition? Members of Catalyst Quartet share how they approached that goal through the CD project featuring their arrangement of the Goldberg Variations. This moderated discussion touches on the process of adapting the Variations for string quartet and how that effort was a factor in creating Catalyst’s “voice” in its first commercial recording. The session also includes a discussion about classical artists branching into composing and redefining the role of performer as interpreter to performer as interpreter, composer, and arranger.

Music by Bach and Gould

7:30 p.m. Thursday, September 17, 2015
Esber Recital Hall

The program features the quartet’s arrangement of Johann Sebastian Bach’s Goldberg Variations paired with Glenn Gould’s String Quartet.


Buy Tickets

Adult $42  |  University Park Student $15  |  18 and Younger $32

Complimentary round-trip shuttle service is provided between the Eisenhower Parking Deck and Esber Recital Hall. Board the shuttle in the area between the parking deck and the Eisenhower Auditorium rear loading dock. The first shuttle leaves Eisenhower at 6:05 p.m., followed by others every twenty minutes until 7:05 p.m. After the concert, the shuttle makes as many trips as necessary to return riders to Eisenhower.


Eileen Liebowitz

media sponsor


Artistic Viewpoints

Artistic Viewpoints, an informal moderated discussion featuring violinist Karla Donehew-Perez and violist Paul Laraia of Catalyst Quartet, is offered in Esber Recital Hall one hour before the performance and is free for ticket holders.

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